Rotarians have defended their decision to elect convicted criminal and disgraced former councillor Brian Coleman as president.

Mr Coleman, who has been embroiled in controversy on various occasions in the past ten years, will be Barnet Rotary Club’s president until 2015.

Both the club and Mr Coleman have faced criticism since the announcement was made on Monday night after the former councillor mocked a cancer patient on social networking site Twitter.

But past president Scott MacLachlan told the Times Series: “We know he’s had a chequered career in politics and attracted a lot of criticism in the past, but that’s his political life.

“We separate those issues. Rotary is a non-political organisation.

“We have people of all colours and creeds, we don’t discriminate. Our doors are open to anyone who wants to join. He’s got good contacts and has brought in some interesting speakers.”

Mr Coleman was expelled from the Conservative party last year after he admitted to assaulting Cafe Buzz owner Helen Michael in North Finchley High Street.

He was also hauled in front of the council’s standards committee following complaints about offensive emails, and forced to write a letter of apology.

After tweeting about his appointment, Barnet blogger and prostate cancer patient Roger Tichborne replied saying it was a “sad day” if the club supported criminals.

Mr Coleman replied saying “with your constant attacks on the Mayor and me, it must be the hatred in you, rather than the cancer which is eating you”.

Mr Tichborne then told the Times Series, Mr Coleman was a “buffoon with verbal incontinence” and called for the rotary club to review its decision.

Speaking about the comments, Mr Coleman told the Times Series: “I feel sorry for him. Go away you obsessive man and get a life. I suppose I should feel flattered.

“The man’s so full of hate – for me, for the mayor, for the council. I’m sure if he let all that go, his life and his health would improve.

“The ego in me says I’m delighted to have all this coverage, but the sensible part of me thinks it’s stupid.

“I’m not part of the council anymore but they treat me like a celebrity. I just want to fade into the security of a private life.”

When asked if he thought his comments to Mr Tichborne were appropriate given that he is a cancer patient, he replied: “Yes. You’d think his family and friends would tell him – and that Musgrove woman (fellow Barnet blogger Mrs Angry) – to stop.”